Dancing On Ice and CBBC stars get into festive spirit as they skate into Sunderland

Andrei Lipanov and Anna Waters on the ice.
Andrei Lipanov and Anna Waters on the ice.
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Christmas in Sunderland has got its skates on!

The city centre’s Christmas countdown got fully under way on Thursday night, with the opening of the traditional Christmas market and ice rink in Keel Square.

CBBC stars Josh and Ellie skating in Keel Square.

CBBC stars Josh and Ellie skating in Keel Square.

Andrei Lipanov, from ITV’s Dancing on Ice, was joined by CBBC favourites Josh and Ellie and a host of local skaters to kick off the festivities.

The ice rink and market are the work of Sunderland Business Improvement District, which has also organised a series of events across the city centre in the run-up to the festive season.

Crowds at last night’s launch were treated to a series of stunning displays.

The North East Ice Crystals Team skating to Christmas songs was followed by solo performances by Annalise Smith and Chloe Poole, then Josh and Ellie took to the ice before Andrei Lipanov and North East skater Anna Waters wrapped things up.

Bid boss Ken Dunbar said: “This is probably our biggest event since we started.

“We’ve had a few great nights in Sunderland but I think this is our biggest and I hope every night through to Christmas Eve will be the same.”

Andrei Lipanov added: “It was really good and it was unusual to be skating outside. Normally we would skate indoors, but this was a Christmas special.”

Anna, who is from Wallsend and had family in the crowd cheering her on, said: “It was a really good, new experience.”

For CBBC star Ellie, it was the first time she had ever skated on a rink outdoors and was “really good fun”.